Energy giant OVO has been accused of a “lack of clarity” as politicians vow to continue pressing the company over its controversial redundancy plans in Perth.
Concerns were voiced by Perthshire North MSP John Swinney, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire MSP Jim Fairlie and Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart after attending a virtual meeting with retail CEO of OVO Energy Adrian Letts on Friday.
The company’s site at Grampian House on Dunkeld Road – which employs about 700 people– is set to close as a part of its voluntary redundancy programme for 1700 employees.
The three SNP politicians said the oil and gas provider failed to clarify whether compulsory redundancies would be implemented if insufficient numbers took voluntary redundancy.
Following the meeting, Mr Swinney said he remained “very concerned” by the proposals put forward by OVO, with a second meeting to be held next month.
He added: “Despite our repeated attempts to seek clarity, OVO did not provide a satisfactory answer on whether compulsory redundancies would be implemented if 1700 employees did not accept the offer of voluntary redundancy.
“OVO have assured us that they will be in a position to provide further clarification on this point in early February, once they have a better understanding of the uptake of the voluntary redundancy programme.
“Accordingly, we have agreed to meet with OVO management in the first week of February to obtain answers to these vital questions.
“It is very unsatisfactory that OVO are either unwilling or unable to share with us basic information regarding any potential escalation of a voluntary redundancy scheme.
“In the interim, I will continue to liaise with Unite, and would ask that any constituents with specific concerns reach out to my office directly.”Mr Fairlie added: “When OVO first bought SSE Retail, they talked a good game in relation to their relationship with their workforce, but that was not particularly evident at our meeting.
“I questioned OVO on their commitment to Perth, and asked them if they had considered basing their new national hub here, but it would appear that they failed to give consideration to Perth as their Scottish base.
“I sincerely hope that Stephen Fitzpatrick will attend our meeting in early February, when more is known about the numbers of staff who wish to consider voluntary redundancy.”
Mr Wishart added: “I am extremely disappointed with the lack of clarity that was provided.
“Despite several attempts, we are still no closer to understanding what exactly the closure of OVO’s Perth office means for job losses.
“As OVO is one of Perth’s largest private employers, it is absolutely critical that they provide further clarity about the employment security of their Perth-based staff, and that they do so quickly. “
Scottish Conservative MSPs Liz Smith and Murdo Fraser vowed to continue to push OVO Energy on their commitment to their Perth workforce.
The two Mid Scotland and Fife politicians also had a virtual meeting with Adrian Letts on Friday to discuss the recent decision.
Liz Smith said: “It was a useful meeting, but rest assured we will continue to push for a firm commitment from OVO to ensure that they keep to their promise of supporting their staff whether in terms of re-skilling or helping them adjust to flexible working.
“This is very important in this day and age. Also we asked for information about the specific criteria they are using to make their decision to have their Perth staff work from home in the future, so it will be very interesting to see that.”
Mr Fraser added: “We welcomed the opportunity to meet with Mr Letts and will continue to push the company on their commitment to their Perth workforce.
“He told us that those who want to work from home will be supported as they feel flexible working is the way ahead. He told us that this could see some staff being required to travel to the new hub office in Glasgow perhaps once or twice a week, at the most.
“However, my concern over this is how it will affect staff that will have to arrange childcare and for those who live to the north or east of Perth will be faced with a journey of over an hour to travel to Glasgow.”